Cops in Florida Go “Bum Hunting”

Picture: 83d40m (cc)

Another example of biased framing by the mainstream media: this is an Associated Press article, and most outlets have been running it under the headline “Homeless are a Challenge for Sarasota, Fla.” You know, as if the homeless are the problem as opposed to the people being given problems. The Washington Post, however, runs it with the more accurate and informative headline “Sarasota’s wealthy and homeless clash in Florida city’s downtown; ACLU has filed 5 lawsuits“:

On a recent sunny winter day on a downtown Sarasota street corner, a cluster of homeless men lounged on the back steps of a building, grimy backpacks and bags at their feet, while a few folks ambled to the nearby bus station.

Parked at a meter just feet from them was a red Ferrari and around the corner was Sur la Table, an upscale cookware store offering $400 juicers.

Newer, wealthy residents in the Gulf Coast city known for its arts scene and beautiful beaches are buying expensive downtown condos so they can live an urban lifestyle — but don’t want the problems associated with a city, including the 700 or so homeless people who inhabit the county, the American Civil Liberties Union and others contend.

They also say authorities, including police, are trying to harass the homeless into leaving the town of 53,000 full-time residents.

Recently, the ACLU uncovered a surveillance video showing an officer throwing a homeless man against a metal grate and received public records that show officers sent messages to each other about “bum hunting.”

“We thought those messages were beyond just being juvenile, but was sort of indicative of the atmosphere that existed in the city,” said Michael Barfield, the legal chair of the ACLU in Sarasota.

To be sure, other warm-weather cities have grappled with problems associated with the homeless. In Florida, Key West has periodically cracked down on “quality of life” offenses such as aggressive panhandling and using residents’ outdoor showers. Miami-Dade County counted nearly 4,000 homeless people either sleeping on the street or in shelters within its borders one year ago.

Barfield said that in the past 18 months, the city has targeted the homeless by removing benches and banning smoking in downtown parks and arrested a homeless man for charging his cellphone on a city-owned outlet in a park. The charge was later dropped.

“I think for a long time we’ve had a lot of issues. The fact that we have a lot of wealthy people downtown, we have a few condos that cater to that type of people, and they’re not quite used to dealing with the lowly and downtrodden,” said Steve McAllister, a Sarasota native who says he chooses to be homeless and live a lifestyle based on bartering. “And so when we have homeless people come here because of the weather or the opulence or whatnot, we get a lot of clashes between the two classes.”

The ACLU has filed five lawsuits against the city — some have been settled and the smoking ban has been struck down by a judge.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino — who took the helm of the department in late December — says the agency is conducting an internal investigation of both police issues raised by the ACLU.

“The city of Sarasota is working aggressively to learn as much as it can to learn about homeless issues in this community,” DiPino said. “There’s been a number of complaints from citizens and business owners about people who are sleeping or on the sidewalks or are begging for money. We try to apply the appropriate response to the complaints we’re getting from citizens.”

Notice that those who are homeless are not referred to as citizens. Read about how park benches were removed here.

15 Comments on "Cops in Florida Go “Bum Hunting”"

  1. Instead of hunting “bums” perhaps we can convince the cops to do down to the Everglades and hunt pythons.

    And then help the pythons…

    • I doubt the pythons really need help. But some webcams in the right places might give the rest of us plenty of lulz.

    • InfvoCuernos | Jan 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

      Why don’t they hire the bums to hunt the pythons for food? Then you could teach them how to skin and tan the snakes and they would be gainfully employed. Naw, nevermind. We’ll just run them off like they were pigeons or something.

      • I know you were probably joking but that is a really good idea. They could maybe even get them to stay out in the Everglades at least in shifts. I dig it.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Jan 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

    this will work great
    until the homefree start stalking the rich

    • Kevin Leonard | Jan 22, 2013 at 1:18 am |

      love the reframe of “homeless”

      • BuzzCoastin | Jan 22, 2013 at 1:48 am |

        I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe
        telling a friend about a homeless hitchhiker I had met
        and what great stories he had
        and someone with a backpack walking by overhearing said
        “it’s called homefree now”

        • LoL I hate euphemisms. I’m homeless and I haven’t heard that one. I prefer the sound of residentially challenged.

  3. Bums use the public restrooms to take a piss? Remove the toilets.
    Bums need to eat? Make it illegal to feed the homeless, no matter the facilities.
    Bums sleep under an overpass? Fence it in, then rebuild the overpass so that the street/rail line abuts against two walls.
    Bums use a beach to clean up? Ban Swimming!
    Bums don’t move fast enough in leaving our town? Use our Second Amendment Rights ™ to use them for target practice.

    And by the way, welcome to America, land of the – eh, nevermind, no one would recognize it from what we call ourselves.

  4. Slight of hand while the people who run Sarasota raise taxs and embezzle millions..Look over there..!

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  6. InfvoCuernos | Jan 23, 2013 at 6:11 am |

    It was half in jest, but I have known a few “homefree” types and they would have lept at the opportunity to hunt snakes in the everglades, away from mankind and on their own without anybody telling them what to do. The government would never allow that. I doubt that even the environmentalists would have any ecological objection since the python is an alien species, but the real question is what do they do when they kill all the pythons in the Everglades? There couldn’t be that many, and you know how mankind can manage to kill off anything he sets his sites on, so there will come a day when the python will disappear from Florida. Maybe we should start building pyramids with them.

  7. I lived in Sarasota for 10 years and worked at various upscale restaurants in the downtown and I assure you this is a campaign that has been ongoing for YEARS… my ex wifes uncle is on the city police force and it is widely known that they have been trying to drive the homeless out for a very long time. The city tried to arrest members of Food Not Bombs for distributing food in public parks as well. Ive never lived anywhere where the disparity of social classes was more distinct

  8. Joey McCabe | Jul 21, 2014 at 10:56 am |

    I consider myself a Hobo. I was forced into homelessness 6 years ago, but have chosen to remain so. I spend the winter camping in the FL Keys and yes, the cops hunt you, harass you, humiliate you, may beat you, jail you on trumped up charges…or worse. You just have to use your brain to stay a step ahead of them. Most cops are borderline idiots.

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